Reflections on Rebuilding Villager FC

We knew that this would be a challenge for us as sport psych professionals and for everyone involved with the club, emerging from what sounded like a traumatic and painful demise. The club as a whole had suffered over the past number of years and was on the brink of closing down.

There had been a significant shift in the direction the club was intending to take, flying in the face of the current trend in South African club rugby, to return to an amateur approach to club rugby. Although there were a number of positives that were part of this vision for the club, things like the prioritisation of the core values of the club, of loyalty, respect, family values, and rugby for the right reasons, there were also a number of concerns. These included a worry about the depth of players at the club, and the difficulty of attracting quality players to a ‘sinking ship’ that was not offering any financial incentive to players.

The coaching staff and committee worked exceptionally hard at addressing this concern, and put in an enormous amount of effort and time to attract, convince and cajole players into giving the club a shot. The fruits of this work were evident during the pre-season that started in October, as the club had a promising turn-out for the pre-season training sessions at the end of 2013.

One of the areas where we placed a lot of emphasis was on the vision and values of the club. Motivated by the understanding that the club needs a clear vision that every member can work towards, whether coaching staff or player, and that “generally the groups that we are all members of say something about who we are and who we aspire to be” (Cotterill, 2013, p.10). We wanted to promote ‘buy –in’ from the members into the values (and norms that embody those values) required for the club to be a cohesive and successful unit.

Through the form of a questionnaire, coaches, club committee and players’ committee were consulted regarding their vision for Villager FC.  The dominant themes from these responses were used to construct a working draft of the club’s vision. Split into on-field and off-field the club identified the following components of the vision:

On the Field Off the Field
Build Depth and a Strong Player Base To have a healthy “Vibe” and “Gees”
To Be Competitive and Successful To be Welcoming and Accepting
To be Sustainable To be Family Oriented
To have Skilled & Knowledgeable Players and Coaches To regain the Club’s Status
To Build Players and People To have Unity, Transparency across the Club and through its Vision

 

The Villager FC embodied by these core characteristics would be facilitated through the values and actions of the club’s members. Values and actions that were aligned with the following principles: Pride in Club & History, Dedication, Loyalty & Commitment, Honour & Respect, Professional Amateurs, Honesty, Gentlemanly Sportsmanship, Passionate Love of the Game.

The Villager Vision and Values were presented back to the club, and teams were encouraged to incorporate these ideas into their own goals for the season. These steps began the process of developing the kind of culture that the club would need to achieve its goal of returning to Super League A. During a mid-season reflection session with all the coaches and management we were able to acknowledge the success we’ve had in a number of the areas we identified during our pre-season, being able to tick the boxes in many if not all of the components of the club’s vision. Our results this season have indicated some of the fruit of the club’s labour, but much of the success goes beyond that, and can be seen in moments like the post-match celebrations, the vibe in the 2nd XV, the heart and guts of the 3rd XV, the wonderful success and talent of the u20’s, the resilience of the 1st XV and the spirit that is filling the walls of The Brooksider. With the end of the season in sight it is clear that we still have an enormous amount of work to do, but this break has also given us the opportunity to reflect on the strides we have made so far this year.  With competitive matches just around the corner we know that we have it all to do, to capitalise on the progress we’ve made as a club so far, and finish the year on a high.

Headstrong